Olivers Travel

Greek Islands Postcards

holiday travel guides to the islands of Greece

As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holiday travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.

Our Popular Greek islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.

The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.

The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.

Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic Greek islands holiday.

By far the frankest and best written guide to the Greek islands - Guardian Online

Corfu gets the first seaplane flights

Seaplanes

It's taken years to get off the ground but it looks like seaplane services will be flying out of Corfu in 2015. The last hurdle has been cleared to build a seaplane port in Corfu Town harbour, paving the way for up to 100 seaplane routes between the Greek island over the coming months. Approval has been given for seaplane port builds, a floating pier and up to 10 flight daily from Corfu. Greek company Hellenic Seaplanes says 30 routes are currently in the pipeline and most could be operational next year, notably at other popular tourist islands such as Crete and Zante. Seaplane services should boost holiday tourism on more remote islands currently only reachable by slow ferries. Hellenic Seaways more than just scheduled seaplane flights. Expect sightseeing tours over the Greek Islands as well as a variety of excursion packages.

Featured Greek resorts

Rhodes City

Rhodes City beach

The main beach of Rhodes City lies north of Mandraki harbour and stretches to the northern tip of the island. Mostly shingle and stone, the long beach, called Elli, is backed by high-rise hotels and crammed with sunbeds.

Banana Skiathos

Banana beach on Skiathos

The island's big party beach, Banana is on the west coast of Skiathos and reached by boat or woodland walks. Music tavernas belt out the beat on the golden sands and holiday beach parties are a regular evening event.

Agios Ermogenis Lesvos

Agios Ermogenis beach on Lesvos

A small but very beautiful south-facing double beach to the south of Mytilini, Agios Ermogenis has steeply banked sharp sand, a small jetty and a good fish taverna. Another beach found around the headland is just as good.

Tourist visitors set to top 21 million

Taverna

It looks like another bumper year for Greek Island holidays in 2014 with visitor numbers almost certain to top the 21 million mark this year. Holiday visitors in October topped 1.2 million, a 23% rise on last year and that doesn't include cruise ship arrivals. It will be the third year in a row that Greece has set new records for international visitors and will out Greece among the top holiday destinations in the world. Street protests in Athens over austerity measures to tackle Greece's ailing economy failed to deter holidaymakers this year and a sharp drop n Russian visitors following the collapse of several east European tour operators was offset by a big increase in visitors from the UK and Germany. The growth in tourism has been vital for the Greek economy, bringing in billions of euros in foreign cash.

Greek sights to see

Kos Castle

Knights' Castle of Kos

The Castle of the Knights of St John dominates the Kos Town skyline. Built in the 15th century by the Knights Templar, the castle is one of may forts erected during the Crusades. The old moat was filled and is now a road.

Caves Zante

Blue caves of Zante

The north coast of Zante is a target of boat trips to see the impressive Blue Caves. The largest cave is the Blue Grotto and the most spectacular the Kianoun Cave of shimmering blue best viewed in the early morning.

Akrotiri Santorini

Akrotiri on Santorini

The Pompeii of Greece, Akrotiri, now completely roofed over, is one of the best archaeological sites in Greece. A Minoan city was buried in volcanic ash around 1500 BC and remained untouched unti 1860.

Rules relaxed on Greek scuba diving

Diving

Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.

Greek ferry timetables out earlier

Ferries

Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. Now thingsare different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of the previous year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands and help extend the holiday season.

Greek beaches lose Blue Flag status

Beach

A total of 38 Greek Island beaches have been stripped of their Blue Flag status this summer after spot checks found they failed to reach the required standards. Corfu was hit the worst after 23 of its 30 island beaches having the coveted Blue Flags withdrawn. Inspectors found that many of the island beaches failed to meet the 32 strict criteria needed to win Blue Flag status. Other notable flag losses were on the islands of Lesvos, Zante and Crete. The setback still leaves Greece second out of 51 countries for the number of clean, safe beaches along its shores, with 370 still flying the Blue Flag, but this will be a bitter blow to Greek tourism leaders. The Blue Flag beach award is considered the gold standard in the tourism industry with the annual accolade issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education.

A very quick guide to the Greek Islands

Greek travel map

There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the northeast is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.